to UPLOAD: please register or login

Jerry Vovcsko

First dunked a worm in Otsego Lake (upstate NY) some 68 years ago and began pursuing striped bass in Cape Cod waters 40 years ago. Pretty soon I should be able to get it right...maybe.

Search This Blog

April 30, 2015

There's Stripers in Them Thar Waters...Just Not Quite Yet

by Jerry Vovcsko

We're in that hazy part of the season where rumors abound, fish are scarce and anglers strain at the bit, anxious to wet a line and tangle with newly arrived striped bass. But that ain't happening just yet, Bubba, not with water temperatures still hovering in the mid to high forties. Soon, though…once the water temperatures touch fifty, they'll be showing up around here.

That's not to say there aren't any stripers to be had in Cape waters. Waquoit Bay typically sprouts a population of holdover striped bass and some of the south facing estuaries are worth a look, especially where shallow, mud-bottomed areas warm rapidly on sunny days. The Coonemessett River in Great Pond is one of those and Waller's Island marsh area inside the Green Pond estuary in East Falmouth is another. Easing around those spots in kayak, canoe or skiff and flipping a soft jig-and-plastic rig toward those shallows can be surprisingly productive even during these early season days.

The likeliest spot for newly arriving spring stripers is the stretch of south-facing beach running between Bass River in the east and the Waquoit jetty at the western end. That includes South Cape Beach, Succonesset and Poponnesset beaches and curves in a gentle bowl-shaped arc that slopes away from the beach and warms up quicker than about anywhere else between Woods Hole and Chatham. A little later in the season a similar beach configuration down Chatham way and known locally as "The Bathtub" offers local anglers a hefty population of short-sized stripers. The long-wand crowd delights in catch-and-release activity from early May until water temperatures climb into the mid-to-high sixties. These are all fine ways to get a jump on the season before the main body of migrants show up from points south.

For years I have inaugurated bass-fishing efforts by working the Poponnesset stretch of beach for stripers and then along about mid-May planting myself out a little ways from the Waquoit jetty and then casting a blackback Rebel in a "slot" out toward the can buoy a couple hundred yards southeasterly from the eastern tip of the jetty. After about a dozen casts I begin to think "any time now" and damned if I don't usually come up with my first-of-the-season bluefish right there in just that spot. Now why that is, I have no idea…but after some thirty years of that same silly ritual, I don't question it. I just do it. I figure fishermen don't necessarily have to be the brightest bulbs, just the most tenacious.

Somebody once said: "Don't get old, you'll live to regret it." Well, looks like I've got a date with the surgeon coming up pretty soon. I'll tell you about it in the next column. Maybe I'll ask the fella if he can show me how to tie a "surgeon's knot"…you'd think he ought to be pretty slick with such things, wouldn't you?

April 22, 2015

Spring Has Sprung

by Jerry Vovcsko

Spring has sprung and bass are feistier than ever in Cape Cod ponds. Striped bass are just a couple weeks away from beginning to trickle back to the Cape from points south, a trickle that will soon become a torrent of fish swarming into Cape waters and onward to northerly destinations...New Hampshire, Maine, Nova Scotia, et al. After what has felt like a never-ending winter, it is just about TIME TO GO FISHING!

The state's Environmental Department trucks have been rolling and the ponds in southeastern Massachusetts received their annual resupply of trout so there's plenty of options available right now. Add to that the bass - both large and smallmouth version - that will soon be on the spawning beds and the next couple of weeks should provide a good warmup for local anglers as a prelude to the commencement of early season saltwater action.

Those ponds that feature water depths less than twenty feet for the most part are good choices right now and will remain so until it gets a bit warmer. Work the shallow areas for best results and keep in mind that slower-is-better when working artificial lures. Lawrence Pond in Sandwich has produced some nice largemouth catches recently with fish in the five pound range taking stickbaits along shore in the north western end. In late afternoon the sun casts a heavy shadow from the pine trees lining the shoreline and working the edge of the sun/shadow line with swimming plugs can be rewarding.

Triangle and Spectacle ponds, also in Sandwich, are trout havens with rainbows and brookies on hand. All three of these Sandwich destinations are flush with perch and folks out for a day's fun with children will see plenty of action from this tasty species. Plus they're perfect to introduce kids to the notion of cleaning, cooking and eating their catch. There are both white and yellow perch to be had but to my mind, the yellow variety is best tasting in the fry pan.

Lots of herring in the runs these days. Raises the question of when and if the state will consider lifting the ban on these wonderful bait fish. When that eventually happens let's hope the resource is monitored and protected better than it was back in the day when a laissez faire regulatory attitude put those stocks in danger of being wiped out. Streamside poaching as well as the activities of commercial herring boats should get plenty of regulatory enforcement efforts; we already saw how quickly herring stocks could get nearly wiped out when that was lacking.

Although it will still be a week or two before striper activity blooms in our waters via the arrival of migrating fish, now is not a bad time to check out the presence of holdover fish. Such places as Scorton Creek in West Barnstable, the Pamet River near Wellfleet and the Coonamesset in Falmouth are certainly worth a try. Clam bellies, shiners, sea worms, green crabs…whatever is available can coax a hit from striper that have been mostly dormant during the winter chill but are rousing themselves now and ready to eat.

Kayaking up into the salt marsh backwaters of these rivers can lead to surprisingly large striper catches. There's long been debates about whether these striped bass are indeed holdovers, or possibly a resident stock that travels between saltwater and freshwater here on the Cape. It'll be a while before the fish scientists confirm that one way or the other, but what we do know is that striped bass have even been taken around Christmas and into January and February in the past. It's definitely worth a try.

And here's some more news from the Division of Marine Fisheries about cod stocks and changes in regulations aimed at reducing the harvest:
The Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) has taken emergency action to immediately reduce the commercial and recreational harvest of Gulf of Maine (GOM) cod (322 CMR 6.03): •Recreational Rule Changes
Until further notice, recreational fishermen (both private and aboard for-hire vessels) may not retain or land any cod taken from the Gulf of Maine Management Area, which includes all state-waters within Cape Cod Bay and Massachusetts Bay north to the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border. Recreational vessels may transit the GOM Management Area with cod legally harvested from outside the GOM Management Area provided all fish and gear are properly stowed and fishing activity is not occurring.
•Commercial Rule Changes
Additionally, MarineFisheries has reduced the commercial trip limit for Gulf of Maine cod from 800 to 200 pounds. This trip limit applies to all state-waters commercial groundfish permit endorsement holders, as well as any federal groundfish permit holder fishing in state-waters.

The most recent stock assessment for Gulf of Maine cod has demonstrated that the stock was overfished with over fishing occurring. Spawning stock biomass was determined to be at 3-4% of the target. Due to these severe stock conditions, the National Marine Fisheries Service promulgated emergency regulations in the early winter of 2014 and is set to promulgate additional rules during the spring of 2015 to reduce fishing mortality and protect spawning aggregations. MarineFisheries has taken the above described actions to complement these federal rules for the 2015 fishing year (FY) that runs from May 1, 2015 thru April 30, 2016.

DMF will take these emergency regulations to public hearing later this spring. In addition, MarineFisheries will also take comment on final rules to adjust recreational GOM haddock fishing limits and commercial GOM groundfish closures to complement anticipated federal rule changes for FY2015. A formal announcement of this public hearing is forth coming.

April 13, 2015

Massachusetts Striped Bass Regs

by Jerry Vovcsko

Here's a message from the folks at the Division of Marine Fisheries that will certainly affect recreational striper fishing this season:

April 2015

The Division of Marine Fisheries (MarineFisheries) has adopted a 1-fish recreational bag limit for Atlantic striped bass in 2015; the recreational minimum size limit remains the same at 28". This bag limit reduction (from 2 fish) was undertaken to reduce recreational harvest in Massachusetts by at least 25%, as required by the interstate management plan. Massachusetts' commercial quota has also been reduced by 25%. Read on for further details.

This past October, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved Addendum IV to Amendment 6 to the Interstate Fishery Management Plan (FMP) for Atlantic Striped Bass. The Addendum responds to results of the 2013 benchmark stock assessment, which found that fishing mortality in 2012 was above target, and female spawning stock biomass has been steadily declining below the target level since 2006.

Addendum IV adopts a 25% harvest reduction from 2013 levels for coastal fisheries, and 20.5% harvest reduction from 2012 levels for the Chesapeake Bay fisheries (this lower reduction is due to the Bay jurisdictions taking a 14% cut in 2013 based on their management program). For the coastal fisheries, the Addendum reduces the commercial quotas by 25% and decreases the recreational bag limit to 1 fish. Under Amendment 6, states may implement alternative state-specific recreational measures if they can demonstrate that the measures will have the same conservation value.

MarineFisheries collected public comment on several options to comply with Addendum IV this past winter. At the request of some representatives and participants in the for-hire fishery, we entertained two alternatives to the 1 fish at 28" FMP standard that included 2 fish at more conservative size limits; these alternatives would have applied only to the for-hire fishing mode.

After careful consideration, MarineFisheries and the Marine Fisheries Advisory Commission selected the FMP standard of 1 fish at 28" minimum for all modes (private and for-hire). This change has the best chance of achieving a 25% harvest reduction, is easiest to understand, encourages compliance, and simplifies enforcement. In addition, public support for the 2-fish alternatives was limited.

Harvest projections for mode-specific regulations are less certain than for fishery-wide regulations. Confidence in the effectiveness of mode-specific regulations is further reduced if compliance erodes. Introducing a separate striped bass measure to regulate the for-hire mode from all other recreational fishermen (and commercial fishermen) would reduce compliance and complicate enforcement. Enforcement of alternative rules across the entire population of our for-hire permit holders (numbering 900), particularly when for-hire permit holders are fishing without patrons aboard, would have proven troublesome. A universal rule also removes any negative perceptions about benefits from a "dual-standard" allowed to for-hire patrons. Anglers in Massachusetts will operate under the same rules as those in our neighboring states in 2015, as New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut have also adopted 1 fish at 28" minimum rules. For more information, refer to

April 08, 2015

Here Comes the Sun

by Jerry Vovcsko

We are now into serious melt-out-time when it comes to the Cape's ponds and lakes. Open water access has improved by leaps and bounds since we started seeing air temperatures soaring into the fifties and sixties over the past couple of weeks. Even those small kettle ponds hiding in the shadows of thick, pine forests have begun to lose the ice covering that served as home to upwards of four-feet of drifting snow and conspired with Mother Nature to create nightmare conditions for those anglers hardy enough to venture out during one of the more brutal winters Massachusetts has endured in the last hundred years or so. Yessir, spring is definitely here.

Unfortunately, the thick ice and snow that covered those ponds and lakes for the better part of the winter has left behind an unpleasant reminder of its presence, a reminder that may linger even after the ice has receded into just-a-memory status. We shall know it by its stench. Officials from the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife warned Mass. residents this week that the season's winter "fish kill," where marine life trapped under the thick ice and snow die off due to low dissolved oxygen levels, resulting in them washing ashore come spring, could be worse than years past.

"As the water starts to creep up to the shore as the ice melts, people will start to notice the abundance of fish—very bleached and decayed fish, and freshly dead fish," said a state fisheries biologist who coordinates fish kill reports with local municipalities. Fish kills happen annually, he said, but a winter "as hard as the one we had" turns the ice especially opaque, and blocks the sunlight needed for plant photosynthesis from penetrating the water column. Add to that the blankets of record snowfall layered on top of the ice, which can restrict access to oxygen from the atmosphere, and bodies of water quickly become "dark as a tomb."

As the temperatures begin to rise this weekend, and the winter's leftovers fade away, those dead fish will resurface, creating a hideous mess that will likely keep all but the most anglers from going anywhere near local ponds. Local DPW crews will get stuck with the cleanup chores, an unenviable task at best, and their telephone lines should be lighting up soon as calls come inform local residents about the aroma wafting in from the ponds. Along with the town work crews the division of fisheries will investigate as those calls come in, to figure out if it's a naturally occurring fish kill, or if the deaths are due to pollution and toxic materials that have leaked into the lake or pond.

The news gets a little better on the salt water scene these days. Where water temperatures had clung stubbornly to a chilly mid-thirties level(in Nantucket Sound, now we're seeing numbers inching into a milder forty-degree range. And next week the weather folk tell us a warm front is heading our way with a hint of summer arriving on a possible seventy-degree reading toward the end of next week. So maybe we'll become as bit more optimistic about the striped bass arriving on time in these parts – around the first week of May is my guess. More specifically, I'm going with May ninth as the day I catch my first one of the 2015 season.

For the moment, though, it's still a freshwater angler's world and seeing as how the environmental department's trucks have been busy on the Cape, it's a perfect time to do a little trout fishing. The Brewster ponds have begun to receive their allotment of rainbows and brookies. PowerBait and live shiners are the best bet but it's not a bad time to toss small metal offerings (Al's Goldfish, junebug spinner rigs, tiny Kastmasters, et al) tipped with a bit of natural or plastic worm. Bucktails with a touch of mylar are worth a try, especially early mornings when they catch and reflect the sun's rays.

Bass and pickerel add to the day's catch as well and both can be found hanging around near-shore weed beds. The action really ratchets up when largemouths go into spawning mode. Look for them hovering over and around sandy patches in sheltered bays and shallow, weather-protected waters. That's when buzzbaits and propeller equipped plugs come into their own. Strikes are more savage than usual and the fish are feistier than later on when the water becomes tepid.

The Red Sox won their season opener 9-0 against the Phillies…could the Beantown lads be looking at a 162-0 season? Go Sox!
You must login to post a comment.

User Name

Need an account? Register here!
© 2011 Noreast Media, LLC | Terms of Service | Contact Us | Advertise